Poenari Castle, also known as Poenari Citadel (Cetatea Poenari in Romanian), is a ruined castle in Romania, notable for its connection to Vlad III the Impaler. Access to the citadel is made by climbing the 1,480 concrete stairs.
Poenari Castle was erected around the beginning of the 13th century by the rulers of Wallachia. Around the 14th century, Poenari was the main citadel of the Basarab rulers. In the next few decades, the name and the residents changed a few times but eventually the castle was abandoned and left in ruins.
However, in the 15th century, realizing the potential for a castle perched high on a steep precipice of rock, Vlad III the Impaler repaired and consolidated the structure, making it one of his main fortresses. Although the castle was used for many years after Vlad's death in 1476, it eventually was abandoned again in the first half of the 16th century and was in ruins by the 17th century. Due to its size and location, control of the castle was difficult to take, even by natural forces. However, in 1888, a landslide caused by an earthquake brought down a portion of the castle which crashed into the river far below. Nonetheless, the castle was slightly repaired and the walls and its towers still stand today. To reach the castle, visitors need to climb 1,480 steps.
During the Communist era in Romania, foreign visitors sometimes spent the night inside the castle ruins. Since 2009, the site has been administered by the Arges County Museum.
Claims that the Poenari Castle would be the "real" Castle Dracula as featured in Bram Stoker's famous Dracula novel have no basis in Stoker's book. Stoker never heard of the Poenari Castle. It is ca. 200 km away from the novel's place of action in the north-east corner of Transylvania. As discovered by the Dutch author Hans Corneel de Roos, Stoker's own handwritten research notes confirm that the novelist had a specific location in that region for the Vampire's stronghold in mind while writing his novel: an empty mountain top 2,033 m high, located in the Transylvanian Carpathian Mountains, near the former border with Moldavia